Steve Haskin's Derby Report (4/25): Day of Godolphin

Steve Haskin's Derby Report (4/25): Day of Godolphin
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Essence of Dubai still had plenty of energy after this workout Thursday.
With Thursday's moves by Essence of Dubai and Request for Parole, the first wave of works have just about concluded. Tomorrow we'll go over what we've seen so far, and what significance they may play in the Kentucky Derby. The important thing to remember, is that it's not a question of which horses work well and which work poorly. You're generally not going to see poor works by Derby horses. It's more of a question of which works stand out from the others.

We were looking forward to Essence of Dubai's first work with great anticipation, as the son of Pulpit has really made a strong impression in his gallops, enthusiasm, and overall demeanor. Unfortunately, we really didn't learn any more about him from his seven-furlong work in 1:28 2/5. Before the work, he was escorted up and down the chute several times by assistant trainer Tom Albertrani on the pony, and again gave his usual buck and kick.

He broke off slowly at the seven-furlong pole and was throwing his ears around through an opening quarter in :26 2/5. Down the backstretch, he was going along smoothly, with exercise rider Lee Roebuck up in the saddle. He handled the turn into the stretch well and was still on cruise control until Roebuck began pushing him a little, then he put his ears back and finished willingly. Daily Racing Form clockers got his final quarter in about :24 4/5, with most of the running coming in the final furlong. He was a bit wide galloping out into the clubhouse turn, and only threw in a :15 split, galloping out the mile in 1:43 2/5.

This work, while visually pleasing, took nothing out of him, and he was bouncing around the shed afterward as if he hadn't even worked. After getting his legs sponge-bathed, he still had a couple of bucks and kicks left in him. After 15 minutes of walking the shed, he still was bouncing around like a frisky pup. Although we were expecting something a bit stiffer, with a faster finishing kick, it is obvious it's going to take a lot to get this colt tired. In general, the work didn't make us like him any more or less, but we would like to see something a little sharper the next time he works, and a stronger gallop-out, as he hasn't run in six weeks. This is a playful kid, who has had his quirks in the past, so we'd like to see him a bit more focused and businesslike when he's out there for serious training.

Request for Parole, on the other hand, was all business in his six-furlong work, although he did it in company with one Jim Baker's horses. We saw this colt in his stall last evening and were amazed how his coat shined following a grueling winter campaign at Turfway Park. This morning, he still looked a picture as he headed to the track under jockey Robby Albarado. It was apparent from the start that his workmate was in way over his head. They broke from the six-furlong pole with Request for Parole a half-length in front. Albarado finally was able to take a hold of him and let the workmate get slightly in front of him.

Nearing the quarter pole, Request for Parole rated nicely, about a length back. He came five-wide into the stretch and opened a 1 1/2-length advantage coming to the eighth pole. Albarado then threw a cross on the colt and started pumping, and in a flash, he opened 10 lengths on his workmate. As he hit the wire, he jumped back onto his left lead, and galloped out strong, while keeping close to the rail, which you like to see. He completed his six furlongs in 1:13 2/5, galloped out seven furlongs in 1:27 and pulled up the mile 1:42 and change. That's a full second faster than Essence of Dubai galloped out.

We don't know whether this colt is good enough at a mile and a quarter to win the Derby, but, like Came home, he's tough, tenacious, and consistent, and that could take him a long way. He will not be on the lead, as he was in the Lane's End Spiral Stakes, but he should make his presence felt somewhere on the far turn. He will probably be a forgotten horse in the betting, and based on how he's training and his overall appearance, he could be an interesting super longshot in the exotics.

Saarland and Blue Burner arrived at Churchill today just after noon. Saarland immediately went out to graze and never came up for air. This colt looks sensational, and his coat was radiant, despite the flight. With his recent throat surgery and subsequent :47 1/5 breeze, and the death several days ago of Ogden Phipps, he is looking more and more like the big bet-down horse, as frustrated and perplexed bettors seek divine assistance.

Sunday Break was out for a gallop this morning, and as usual, carried his head way down to his knees. As he exited the track, he was sweating badly under the girth, as well as over other parts of his body, although not quite as noticeable. It was cold and very windy out, yet the hair under his girth was quite saturated. Neil Drysdale, as to be expected, has made no commitment to any works. The colt still needs several defections to get in the race.

Bobby Frankel, believing Medaglia d'Oro is something special, has decided to test the colt and train him "as if he were Secretariat." Instead of giving him another easy five-furlong breeze, he will now work him six furlongs in 1:12 and change or 1:13 on Monday. His philosophy is, if you train a horse like a great horse, maybe he'll believe it.

Richard Migliore has been named to ride Windward Passage, who still needs one horse to come out of the Derby field. A defeat by Mayakovsky in the Derby Trial and he likely would be that horse. Windward Passage and stablemate Private Emblem both schooled at the gate this morning.

Todd Pletcher is waiting to see what happens regarding Mick Kinane's suspension appeal. If Kinane is unable to ride Johannesburg, the mount likely would go to Gary Stevens, although it is possible that Jerry Bailey could ride Johannesburg, with Stevens going to Castle Gandolfo. If Kinane is able to ride, then Stevens would likely ride Pletcher's Wild Horses. Of course, that's if Sunday Break doesn't get in.

With the Aidan O'Brien horses not shipping to Churchill until Friday or even Saturday, Castle Gandolfo will have to be gate schooled at Keeneland, where the horses are being quarantined. Johannesburg was no trouble in the gate before the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, so he will get a free pass.

Nick Zito likely will not run Lexington runner-up Crimson Hero if he gets in the field, but would love to run Straight Gin, who is below him in the earnings. However, he would need at least four defections, so that doesn't seem likely. Zito hasn't ruled out the Derby, but seems to be leaning against it. If he doesn't run, he'll point for the Preakness.

Mayakovsky blew out three furlongs in :34 3/5 this morning for the Derby Trial Saturday. Trainer Patrick Biancone said he won't look past Saturday in regard to wheeling him right back in the Kentucky Derby.

Throwing in a quick Kentucky Oaks comment, yesterday's six-furlong breeze in 1:13 1/5 by You was not only the best work we've seen so far, but one of the best works we can ever remember seeing at Churchill Downs. The ease with which she did it was remarkable. If we saw a work like this by a Derby horse, we'd be all over him in an instant.

Lusty Latin, a big, powerful gray, was out for a gallop this morning, and went along nicely, covering a lot of ground.

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